NEW YORK — Verizon attorneys and legal staff have started a program that will provide free legal services to needy individuals and nonprofit organizations.

The program helps address a major issue: Nearly 1 million poor people will be denied representation in courts across the country this year because of insufficient resources, according to a recent study by Legal Services Corporation.

Verizon attorneys, who specialize in a variety of legal fields, and legal staff, will donate their time, talents and professional expertise, with an emphasis on civil matters involving education, domestic violence, and supporting veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

"This program is a natural extension of Verizon's long-standing commitment to the communities we serve," said Randal Milch, executive vice president and general counsel for Verizon. "With attorneys and staffers in 20 states and the District of Columbia, Verizon's pro bono program has the potential to have a significant impact in many of these communities."

Under the program, the more than 700 attorneys, paralegals and staffers in the company's legal department will be encouraged to volunteer a minimum of 25 hours a year. The department has established a Pro Bono Committee to oversee the program, approve pro bono projects and partners, assess the program's effectiveness, and ensure that volunteers have access to proper training resources.

The program will provide legal assistance in three key areas: education, domestic violence, and Veterans.

To broaden the program's reach, Verizon has partnered with the law firm of DLA Piper, which has a similar program that provides legal services to the needy, and joined the Corporate Pro Bono Challenge - a program sponsored by Corporate Pro Bono. The Challenge's goal is for at least half of the members of Verizon's legal department to participate in the program.

Partnering with other companies in the community can be a great way to make a big difference. Through Verizon's determination to meet a community need, others are encouraged to join in, allowing a greater number of people to be impacted by Verizon's initiative.

There is a strength in numbers. If you are feeling overwhelmed by a cause you want to support, try partnering with other companies that have similar passions. You might be amazed at the impact you make and the new relationships you gain in the process.